Customers want seamless integration between channels, along with personalised, value-added services

Customers want seamless integration between channels, along with personalised, value-added services

Here's how technology can empower fashion retailers to deliver a genuinely personalised, omnichannel experience.

The fashion industry is evolving so fast that it's leaving most sellers gasping for breath as they try to keep up. Forget about trying to get ahead of the curve – just staying somewhere within it is a huge undertaking.

New buying channels, new buyer priorities, and new business models seem to spring up on an almost monthly basis. And yet, with all the obituaries being written for traditional brick-and-mortar selling, customers still make two out of every three purchases from physical stores, according to RIS research.

Online and brick-and-mortar stores are not enemies. Just as brick-and-mortar sales are frequently influenced by online research, online sales are often the result of hands-on experiences in physical stores. Creating in-store connections with consumers on a personal level can power your online sales.

As fashion retail marketers move forward, their success will depend on being able to recognise and take advantage of synergistic relationships across all the sales channels currently in play.

The solution: An omnichannel strategy

The one constant in this sea of change is the growing demand among customers for seamless integration between channels, along with personalised, value-added services. From Millennials to Baby Boomers and everyone in between, customers are using multiple channels to learn about, shop for, and purchase the latest products.

But embracing an omnichannel marketing approach and providing customers with a genuinely rewarding, personalised experience isn't easy. The implementation of a comprehensive omnichannel strategy requires:

  • C-suite support;
  • A strong CMO-CIO partnership;
  • A customer-centric company culture;
  • Reorganisation to integrate digital capabilities throughout the business;
  • Integrated customer data and marketing technology tools.

As more marketers recognise the need for a customer-centric, consistent omnichannel buyer experience, best practices are beginning to emerge. And technology is driving those efforts.

Going beyond traditional tools

Media-savvy customers demand an experience that's tailored to their unique needs. Traditional tools can't deliver that experience. Creating a more intimate, prescriptive marketing model will require a new layer of strategic thinking, technology, and execution – the marketing management layer.

This new paradigm is built around three key elements:

1: Automation – Collecting analysing, and deploying the data required to construct a personalised experience that drives sales requires automation. And automation requires some up-front investment, but yields enormous savings on the back end.
2: Execution – Automation needs to be implemented properly and customer data sets need to be updated regularly to create a truly personalised and satisfying buyer experience. This is also where content management comes in. No matter how sophisticated a delivery system may be, if the content being delivered is off-target, it's all for nothing.
3: Analysis – Successful omnichannel marketing is data driven. The relationships drawn from data determine success. And given the evolving nature of the fashion retail landscape, testing and analysis needs to be ongoing.

Provide the personalisation customers crave

Consumers expect a personalised experience and insist that marketers court them with information that is relevant and beneficial.

In fact, 64% of customers actually say it's important to receive relevant offers when shopping online. Sending intelligent, relevant, and personalised emails based on timely and accurate customer data can increase click-through rates by up to 50%. Delivering highly personalised website content and recommendations based on data from all of a customer's online and offline interaction channels also improves engagement rates.

A well thought-out personalisation strategy can include tactics such as:

  • An e-mail about a one-day sale on shoes, sent to a customer who looked at shoes on the website;
  • Information about products that can enhance the value of a recent purchase;
  • Targeted buying guides;
  • Invitations to events likely to be of interest, based on past shopping behaviour;
  • Loyalty programmes that offer specifically targeted rewards.

Master the 24/7 selling cycle

Today's buyers pull the trigger whenever the mood strikes them – whether it's 2 am or 2 pm. To keep the "shop" open 24/7 requires a substantial upgrade in technology and a strategy that takes advantage of self-learning marketing automation technologies to mine customer data in innovative ways, such as:

  • Website/e-commerce – Identify and present products of individual interest;
  • E-mail – Drive real-time offers and include personalised content in emails;
  • Social media – Enable social listening, monitoring, publishing, social profiling, and social scoring to qualify leads and deliver personalised offers;
  • Customer service – Provide robust, individualised service options across all channels.

Why do it now?

No single channel can drive sufficient sales volume. The move to online and mobile channels for product research, price comparison, and purchasing has reduced foot traffic in physical stores. Yet no single cyber-channel has achieved dominance. So, the key to earning the loyalty of an increasingly fickle customer base is not only consistent messaging and voice, but synergistic connections that reward customers who approach a seller through multiple conduits.

Those fashion retailers who embrace marketing management technologies will find themselves competitively positioned with insight into what customers want on a real-time basis, and will have the ability to establish a more intimate, prescriptive sales model linked to customers' personal behaviours.

Advanced technology is key

To implement an omnichannel model, retailers need enterprise-wide commitment, adequate infrastructure, and expertise. To realise the rewards of omnichannel retailing, sellers need technology that helps them:

  • Optimise customer interactions across multiple channels and at every interaction point;
  • Deliver powerful customer insights to personalise customer experiences and reinforce brand loyalty;
  • Capture vital corporate knowledge through a single platform for social collaboration and business process management;
  • Manage all marketing activities and resources, and automate processes for maximum efficiency; and
  • Find, understand, and engage customers faster and more effectively through social channels.

About the author: Jason Rushforth is vice president and general manager of the Customer Experience Suite at Infor.